California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, according to new figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. We discuss the new data with economist Sarah Bohn from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Sarah Bohn, policy fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California
Ann Huff Stevens, professor of economics and director of the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis

  • Fred

    Last night there was a telethon for Rolling Jubilee, which is connected with Occupy, to raise money for buying up bad debts that are hanging over people’s heads and then forgiving them. Thus it’s the opposite of what the (bank-owned) collection agencies do. So far they’ve raise $250k, which will pay off many millions of dollars of debts. It’s refreshing to see debt being used in a way that liberates rather than oppressing the poor. America so often uses debt to keep down not only its own citizens, but entire countries elsewhere in the world.

  • Slappy

    If education wasn’t so terrible in California, I believe that people would be able to start up new companies to replace the ones we no longer have.

    As it is, the public education system in place here serves only to demotivate the ambitious, worship the unambitious, and waste taxpayer money.

    • TrainedHistorian

      This is simplistic. Not everyone can start start start-ups & you need workers to run them,: if you pay those workers low wages they won’t get out of poverty.Also start-ups fail at a very high rate, so most of them do not end up adding much net to the economy.

      Fact is, many people do get what is considered a good “public school” educations,but they aren’t paid enough to stay out of poverty. I got public school education (in Ohio) good enough to get into Stanford, where I got a BA in history. Got a PhD in history & MA in Demography at UC Berkeley, then found that so many other people had comparable degrees & skills that I could not get a decent job in academia or elsewhere. Universities were even hiring non-American PhDs in HISTORY (!) and other fields where too many Americans were already chasing too few decently-paid jobs . The result of all these very educated PhDs chasing too few decently-paid jobs: low-paid adjunct positions supplemented by welfare. As a single person without a breadwinner-type partner to support me, I could not indefinately survive on these so I took the best job I could get and still ended up in poverty & needed MediCal (no welfare) .since it was capped at part-time and did not pay a living wage ($11/hour) anyway. (Yes, that was the best job I was ever offered).
      I applied to all sorts of both start-up and established industries but they had (surprise!) no interest in my skills. When.I finally was offered full-time work teaching a private school, it was at $13,0000/year–when the market-rate for my apartment was $1180/month.. Again, those sorts of wages for that level of education,at that level of rent would certainly never get me out of poverty.

      When I applied to get a teaching credential California did not offer me enough financial aid (despite being so poor) to make it feasible.. This at the same time that California was subsidizing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. To take classes I would have had to quit my job, so how would I pay rent & survive? And welfare did not allow you to be on welfare & in college at the same time. Having had such an difficult time getting even a job paying $11,000/year, I wasn’t going to quit that job to chase a credential that I had go into 100% debt for, that might not even pan out. After my experience with education,in this low-wage economy nothing is clearer to me than that for most of us (outside a few professions like engineering, law & medicine) “education” is a high-cost, high-risk undertaking, that can leave you worse off economically (in debt, too educated to get hired into most jobs, not enough work experience to keep your resume attractive, etc.),

  • Peji

    Does the number of children a woman has affect the family? Also, are we helping women in poverty obtain birth control along with food stamps?

  • Peji

    How does the number of children affect the family? Also, are we helping women in poverty obtain birth control along with food stamps?

  • Paul

    A child’s future starts in the living room. We must empower homes to prepare their children for success in school and life. –see 10 Books A Home,

  • TrainedHistorian

    The significant increase in real poverty in CA is the logical result of constantly adding a practically unlimited number of low-skilled and medium-skilled people into the labor market, which nowadays occurs mainly through illegal immigration.. Doing this pushes wages down and rental costs up for other low-skilled & medium skilled workers, It’s called the law of supply and demand. And you can’t do away with it by smearing everyone with the word “racist” or “xenophobe” for advocating that we start enforcing the legal limits on immigration which were originally (1965) meant to limit immigration mostly to those with genuinely scarce skills.

    Unfortunately, even the guests’ hackneyed recommendation of increasing education will NOT in itself solve this fundamental of the law of supply & demand. (Baby boomers were more educated than their parents but experienced lower wages .because so many of them entered the labor market at the same time in the ’70s, pushing real wages down, while, their parents, born in the “birth dearth” ’20s & ’30s & facing relatively little competition from immigration (because immigration levels were deliberated limited) could command better wages than US workers ever had since industrialization. It is well known by economists & demographers.that if a labor market is slack, real wages will NOT rise even if productivity & education levels rise

    This is because employers will just hire more comparable workers rather than pay higher wages. The increased profit from the increased productivity & education is just pocketed by the employers & landowners, rather than being delivered to the workers, particularly if they have to rent.

    • Trainedhistorian, you need better training. First, Baby Boomers have indeed done better than their parents in terms of real wages. Perhaps some of the youngest boomers might have faltered, but as a whole boomers have done exceptionally well. Moreover, system-wide increases have “historically” raised productivity, and even while increasing the supply of higher skilled workers has provided considerably greater wealth to distribute. Now, along with what the guests have indicated, there are the additional effects of policy, which have sent both the benefits of higher productivity and greater wealth to a much narrower share of the population (the upper 5%). The rest of your post relates a story in which you conflate simultaneous events and act as if spurious correlations are evidence of causation. You need to be a better trained historia and you need to shed your implicit ideology, which becomes apparent with your gratuitously snarky references to the guests.

      • TrainedHistorian

        The question of boomers overall doing not as well their “birth dearth” parents in real wages (not nominal wages) despite comparable or sometimes better education has already been looked at. by demographers. Richard Easterlin’s work, summarized partly in his “Birth and Fortune,” is standard, Unsubstantiated assertions from you to the contrary do not invalidate his and other demographers’ thorough documentation that they overall did not do as well, Demographers & economists agree that median real wages for full time US workers have not significantly increased since c. 1975, despite great increases in productivity since then. The profits from this increased productivity has not been shared by those in the bottom half.. .
        My comments about the guests was not snarky. It’s to point out that such over-broad recommendations as “increasing education,” (is anyone against this?) will NOT in itself decrease poverty in California or the US. The show was about poverty not general growth rates, productivity or p.c. GDP all of which can increase even as poverty rates also increase, depending on your labor structure, tax policies, and other factors.

        If you pay most workers low wages you still will have a lot of poverty, even if you “increase your supply of higher skilled workers.” Nor is it easy to increase the supply of “higher skilled workers.” . Even assuming there is agreement about what “higher skilled” means, educating those already here costs a lot of money that someone always wants someone else to pay,. (Witness the highly regressive sales tax increases, which hurt the poor the most, rammed through by Brown & several Bay Area counties to pay for education over the last 3 decades). Immigration policy (1965) was conceived with the idea of increasing the relative supply of highly-skilled, but it’s been undermined by not enforcing limitations on low- and medium skilled labor importation. (Most illegals are less educated than.both natives & legal immigrants).

  • Ann

    The new cost of carbon from AB 32 will cost consumers 18 cents a gallon when they purchase gasoline. This will definitely adversely impact the poor who probably are not buying new cars that depend less on gasoline.

    According to the Air Resources Board, some of the money collected will somehow help poor people, but it is not clear to me how. In listening to some of this program about poverty in California, I understand the poor are scattered throughout California. I wonder if the ARB will take any notice of the new data about poverty in California. ARB most definitely should.

  • I wonder if the income level which brings eligibility for food stamps is the same in all states? If it is, that might help explain less food stamp money on a per capita basis in California. Income that makes one poor, in California due to the high cost of living there could still be high enough to not be considered as poverty in other states.

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